What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a source of energy.
When eaten, the body converts most carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is used to fuel cells such as those of the brain and muscles.
There are three different types of carbohydrate:
Sugar is found naturally in some foods, including fruit, honey, fruit juices, milk (lactose) and vegetables. Other forms of sugar (for example table sugar) can be added to food and drink such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks during manufacture, or added when cooking or baking at home. Remember: sugar is a carbohydrate but not all carbs are sugars
Starch made up of many sugar units bonded together, is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day
Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. Fibre helps keep our bowels healthy and some types of fibre may help lower cholesterol. Research shows diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Good sources of fibre include vegetables with skins on, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and pulses (beans and lentils).
What is GI ?
The glycaemic index (GI)
was originally designed for people with diabetes to help keep their blood sugar levels under control.
Glucose is the primary source of energy required by every cell in the body. The GI ranks carbohydrate foods based on the rate at which they are broken down into glucose. When glucose levels in the blood start to rise, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin which promotes the take up of glucose by the cells and as a consequence brings blood sugar levels back into a more manageable range.
How does it work?
The GI is a measure of the rate at which our bodies break down the carbs in our food to energy, in the form of glucose. The speed at which this digestion occurs, and the amount it raises glucose levels in the blood is measured by a score on the GI scale. Glucose, is the reference point for all other foods and carries a score of 100. Foods with low GI ratings such as lentils, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds release their energy more slowly and help prevent sugar highs.
What makes a food low rather than high GI depends on the proportion of a type of starch, amylose, to another, amylopectin.
Foods with a greater proportion of amylose such as lentils have lower GIs than those with more amylopectin, like potatoes, which have a high GI.
If you typically eat a lot of high GI foods such as white bread, processed breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits you will have a lot of readily available energy in your blood, and your body will use this energy rather than turning to your fat stores.
Why do we need carbs?
Carbs are important to your health for a number of reasons. In a healthy balanced diet they are the body’s main source of energy. High fibre, Low GI carbs release sugar into the blood more slowly than sugary foods and drinks.
Vegetables, pulses, wholegrain varieties of Carbohydrates, and potatoes eaten with their skins on are good sources of fibre. Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It can promote good bowel health, reduce the risk of constipation, and some forms of fibre have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Many people don't get enough fibre. On average, most people in the UK get about 14g of fibre a day. We are advised to eat an average of 18g a day.
Carbohydrate contains fewer calories gram for gram than fat, which means they can be a useful part of a weight loss plan. By replacing fatty, sugary foods and drinks with high-fibre Low GI, it is more likely you will reduce the number of calories in your diet. Also high fibre foods add bulk to your meal helping you feel full.
Should I cut out Carbs?
It would be quite difficult to eliminate carbs entirely from your diet. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. In the absence of carbohydrate, your body will use protein and fat for energy.
Cutting out any food group from your diet could put you at increased risk of a deficiency in certain nutrients, leading to health problems
It would be hard to get enough fibre, important for a healthy digestive system Healthy sources of carbs such as Whole grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, legumes and dairy products are an important source of nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins.
When you are low on glucose, the body breaks down stored fat to convert it into energy. This process causes a build up of Ketones in the blood, resulting in ketosis. Ketosis as a result of a low carbohydrate diet can be accompanied by headaches, weakness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness and irritability particularly in the short term
How much carbohydrate should I eat?
The Government’s healthy eating advice is that 1/4 of your diet should be made up of Carbohydrates, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta,
What carbs should I be eating?
Fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrain Pasta & Breads
Do carbs make you fat?
Any food can be fattening if you overeat. It doesn't seem to matter a whole lot whether your diet is high in fat or carbs, but how much you eat in total. In fact, gram for gram, carbohydrate contains fewer than half the calories of fat
What’s the role of carbs in exercise?
Exercising muscles rely on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel. However, muscles have limited carb stores (glycogen) and they need to be topped up regularly to keep your energy up. A diet low in carbs can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery.
When is the best time to eat carbs?
You should have some starchy carbs in appropriate portions with most meals, choosing high-fibre, Low GI varieties